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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cory, Gilbert Ernest (1906–1977)

by Ian Grant

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Gilbert Ernest Cory (1906-1977), by unknown photographer, 1945

Gilbert Ernest Cory (1906-1977), by unknown photographer, 1945

Australian War Memorial, 098209 [with Major L. E. Powling (right)]

Gilbert Ernest Cory (1906-1977), solicitor and army officer, was born on 23 December 1906 at Saumarez, near Armidale, New South Wales, fourth child of native-born parents Frederick Ernest Cory, schoolteacher, and his wife Blanche, née Hicks. Educated at Maitland East Boys' High School, Gilbert worked on the land for a year before being articled (1926) to a Moree solicitor William A. Cole (later Moodie, Cole & Co.) and joining the Militia. On 17 February 1931 in St Thomas's Anglican Church, North Sydney, he married Helen Louie Annie Vaughan. He was admitted as a solicitor on 13 March.

In early 1939 a friend who had lent him money abruptly asked for repayment in full. Unable to comply, Cory was issued with a bankruptcy notice. Without disclosing his financial affairs, he obtained a loan from a client of his employers. Rather than defending his conduct in court, Cory fled to Canberra and adopted the alias 'Graham'. He was struck off the roll of solicitors on 18 May. During this period his marriage broke down. After working as a motorcar salesman at Uralla, New South Wales, on 2 November he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was posted to the 2nd/3rd Battalion and on 9 January 1940 embarked for the Middle East. From February to July 1941 he saw action successively in North Africa, Greece and Syria, and was mentioned in dispatches.

Returning to Australia as a sergeant, in September 1942 he went with his unit to Papua. On 28 October at Eora Creek he led No.14 Platoon in an assault against a strongly-defended Japanese position. When the platoon lost most of its non-commissioned officers, Cory moved between sections and directed operations. Although shot in the face and temporarily blinded, he continued to take charge until he was evacuated. Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was promoted lieutenant on 1 February 1943. His wound required extensive plastic surgery in Australia and it was not until July that he rejoined the battalion at Wondecla, Queensland. By January 1945 he was involved in the fighting east of Aitape, on the north coast of New Guinea. At Long Ridge on 1 February Cory commanded two platoons in a daring raid on a Japanese camp; the attack disorganized the enemy and inflicted heavy casualties. For his deeds he was awarded the Military Cross.

Cory was 5 ft 8½ ins (174 cm) tall, with blue eyes and brown hair. His bravery and outgoing personality made him popular with his comrades. Promoted temporary captain in June 1945, he transferred to the 67th Battalion in October; he served on Morotai Island and from February 1946 with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force at Kure, Japan. He was repatriated in May due to ill health. Following postings in the Sydney area, he left the army in February 1949 with a disability pension.

A divorcee, on 16 September 1950 Cory married Florence Alvin Joy Pugh with Methodist forms at Concord West. They lived at Bondi. He had found a job as a managing clerk in a solicitor's office, but was bitterly disappointed when his application for readmission as a solicitor was rejected in November 1960. With his wife, he retired to South West Rocks in 1972. Survived by her, he died of emphysema on 4 September 1977 at Kempsey and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • D. McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area—First Year (Canb, 1959)
  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (Canb, 1963)
  • K. Clift, War Dance (Syd, 1980)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 1939, 18 Nov 1960
  • Australian War Memorial records
  • private information.

Citation details

Ian Grant, 'Cory, Gilbert Ernest (1906–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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